Gig Line: Veterans and spouses please listen up!

Published 7:11 am Saturday, February 16, 2019

We aren’t all knowing . . . but we sure can learn more to do more and be more.

In March 2012, I wrote and submitted my first story entitled Gig Line to The Coastland Times newspaper. The inspiration for my writing was my husband, hero and Vietnam veteran Billy. It was a tribute to Billy – to honor his military service in a very bad setting at a very hard time in our history . . . both – there and here.

My first Gig Line dubbed as such was not about fishing as some first thought, it was based on a military term to describe the required straight line on a uniform – the collar, buttons, belt buckle and zipper – had to be perfectly aligned and straight as an arrow. lt started out as a one time writing in which I described Billy’s home coming in March 1968, our subsequent marriage in July and how he had inspired me to seriously care about the Vietnam war and our veterans sacrifice. However, as it turned out, the initial ‘article’ was very well received and acknowledged by fellow veterans across Dare County so much so that it became a weekly ‘column.’

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Almost without exception, since 2012 my columns were featured on a weekly basis even after Billy was diagnosed with a Glioblastoma Multiform brain cancer in February 2016. Billy always heard or read my column before I emailed it to the paper, kindly suggesting amendments as needed. Until Billy passed in July 2016, four months after diagnosis, we honored and celebrated his veteran brothers and sisters. And sometimes after I had finished writing and read it out loud to him for his approval, Billy would stare at the floor or out the window. About the time I thought he wasn’t listening, he was in fact absorbing the words, phrases and content ‘feeling it’ and at times his tears fell quietly. It was clear I was on the right tract . . . a tract he was proud of . . . was touched by and one he valued deeply. But . . . it was I who was honored.

Except for several month’s hiatus, my columns have consistently reached out to our veterans . . . first and foremost but as a Vietnam veteran’s wife, I somehow missed what my husband’s service had done to eventually help me until well after his passing.

About a month or two ago I reached out to Peggy Snead, a friend and widow of another local veteran. Peggy shared a wonderful marriage with her late husband Eugene Snead . . . remember “Mr. Snead”? He was the very well-known and feared J N. C. Driver’s License Examiner in Dare County. Mr. Snead was respected with an obvious very serious approach to testing and qualifying (or not) first time driver’s license applicants and renewals and we ALL knew he meant business! You knew before you got behind the wheel on the road test with Mr. Snead that you’d better have your stuff together because he was going to make sure you were qualified to drive safely or no license for you! Mr. Snead gave us all the impression he was gruff . . . but he was so loved by so many across our county, including Billy and me, and long after I had renewed my license with him countless times, I came to realize what a genuinely nice and unique man he really was; a figure Dare Countians will likely never forget.

I called Peggy because I had heard about a support group/class she taught at Mt. Olivet Methodist Church in downtown Manteo called “Grief Share” and I was interested. During our conversation, she explained that the class lasts 13 weeks, that they meet on Thursdays between 4-6 p.m. and that the class study guide was $15 (which I found later to be well worth it). She also expressed the importance of confidentiality among the participants, noting that it is a hard time for everyone who attends regardless of their grief source, be it a spouse, a child, a parent, a sibling or best friend etc. and that what is discussed in the support group stays in the support group.

At this point in time, I’ve only been able to attend one class due to other meeting schedule conflicts, however, I can tell you without question that it’s well worth your time. If you’ve lost someone dear to your heart and you find it hard sometimes to get through their passing, please consider calling Aletia at Mt. Olivet at 252-473-2089 to let her know you will be attending and that you will need a study guide which you can pick up upon arrival at the class. Also . . . even though the class is underway . . . please don’t let that hold you back from attending. At any point you join in, you will feel welcomed and because each class addresses different aspects of the grieving process, you’ll never feel behind in the study. Typically, there’s a brief film at the start of the class and volunteer only discussion or sharing if anyone so desires. Nobody must talk about their loss or heart ache, but everyone is in the same boat – broken hearted and trying to find their way through the grief we feel and new journey we now face. The group is wonderful, and Peggy Snead is an outstanding leader. Please consider going – the testimonies of others who are willing to talk about their sorrow and the adjustments they’re trying to make helps you feel less alone and comforted in this process. Men and women attend . . . and we are all in this together, so just think about it . . . okay?

This is the second go-round for Peggy organizing and leading the class and as I told her just the other day, Mr. Snead would be (is) very proud of her . . . I’m sure of it!

What did I mean earlier in this piece about how Billy is helping me now? I will explain further in next Wednesday’s Gig Line and continue the story about my talk with Peggy. In the meantime, if you are a spouse of a veteran who died due to service-related illness, please don’t miss my column. For veteran related questions, comments, please write to me at or call me: 252-202-2058.

Lastly, because the two things I am most passionate about are our veterans and our watermen, I will also be writing another weekly column starting next Sunday, February 17. The column will encompass many stories of our commercial fishing industry, the history, the heritage, the undeniable truths about what our men and women go through to bring fresh, fish, shrimp and crabs to the dock . . . and to your plate. No doubt you will be enlightened beyond your expectation and you may look upon the industry, its contribution to our communities and to our nation in a whole new light. That column will be featured on The Coastland Times “On the Water” page. Please look for it in the newspaper and/or online. And once you read it, please feel free to email me with your comments at because I will welcome them.

Until next time, be happy, be safe and be proud of all veteran population; pray for our active duty and reserves and pray for our leaders across this great nation to make the right decisions for the right reasons and thank our good Lord for the beautiful and exceptional country we live in. Stay tuned . . .